Best read with birdie juice.
It’s Brooks Koepka’s world and we’re just living in it. The defending PGA champion shot an opening round of 63 on Thursday to lead at Bethpage Black. On a day in which only 16 players broke 70, Koepka beat the field average by 10 shots. Dustin Johnson, Rickie Fowler, Jordan Spieth, and Phil Mickelson are all inside the top 10. PGA Championship Leaderboard
Keeping up with Koepka
Before getting to Brooks Koepka’s recent track record in major championships, let’s start with his brilliant round on Thursday. Opening with a birdie on the difficult 10th hole, Brooks hit 14 greens in regulation, led the field in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green, and did not make a bogey. He also ranked first in scrambling and second in SG: Putting. Overall, he gained 10.06 strokes on the field, the highest number in a single round of any major championship since Steve Stricker in 2011 (Justin Ray).
Brooks has now led after each of the last three PGA Championship rounds dating back to 2018. Over his last nine major championships, he has three victories and only one finish outside the top 15. Also, he has now shot 63 in a major in two consecutive years, something no one has ever done. Phew, you may exhale.It has been said a million times this week, but
Brooks Koepka just has a different gear in majors. He has the ability to elevate his game at the right moments, and there are very few players who can hang with him when he is at his best. There are still three rounds to go, but Brooksy is definitely in the driver’s seat.
Be the ball, Danny
Just one player is within three shots of Koepka: everyone’s favorite Kiwi, Danny Lee. Unlike Brooks, Lee put together an unusual round. He hit just 10 greens in regulation, but he led the field in putting. He did not miss from inside 15 feet all day and got around Bethpage Black in just 21 putts. His 66 is the lowest round he has ever shot at a major. Lee has just one top-30 finish in 2019, so this would be a convenient time for him to turn things around.
Tommy Fleetwood shot 67 to get himself solidly in the mix. The Englishman made six birdies on Thursday and finds himself in solo third through one round.
Fresh off his win at the AT&T Byron Nelson last week, Sung Kang shot an opening round of 68 to sit in a tie for 4th. Kang’s career-best finish at a major championship is T-18, but maybe this is his week.
T-9 boasts a powerhouse lineup. Rickie Fowler, Jordan Spieth, Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson, Jason Day, Patrick Cantlay, Si Woo Kim, and Matt Wallace all shot 69 on Thursday.
A whopping 23 players are tied for 17th at even par. Tony Finau, Justin Rose, Daniel Berger, Hideki Matsuyama, and Xander Schauffele are among that group, which is seven shots off the lead.
There are a total of 61 players who shot between -1 and +2 in the first round. That kind of bunched leaderboard is typical on long, wet golf courses, but usually the peloton isn’t six to nine shots off the lead.
On a day that would seemingly favor the best drivers, Rory McIlroy struggled to an opening 72. Rory’s lone birdie came on his final hole of the day.
Tiger had an up-and-down day before settling for 72. Playing alongside the dominant Koepka, Big Cat made two doubles, three bogeys, three birdies, and an eagle.
Two PGA club pros, Jason Caron and Ryan Vermeer, are tied for low club pro after opening with 70. You’ll be hard pressed to find someone who thinks Caron or Vermeer can win this week, but either stayed at even par or better, it would be a great story.
Ryan Brehm made eight birdies on his way to the lead at the Knoxville Open on the Web.com Tour. Brehm leads Mark Hubbard, Billy Kennerly, and Jack Maguire by one shot as the field heads to the weekend. Leaderboard
Danielle Ammacapane leads after one round of the U.S. Senior Women’s Open at Pine Needles. Defending champion Laura Davies sits in a tie for eighth place. Leaderboard
John Daly is ripping heaters and rolling around Bethpage in a cart, but Brendan Porath isn’t sure the spectacle is all that funny. Check out his perceptive column for SB Nation here.
It wasn’t surprising to see John Daly go birdie-free on Thursday while slugging Diet Cokes. When you want birdies, turn to the best sports drink for golfers, Greater Than. Made with coconut water, it has twice the electrolytes and half the sugars of other popular sports drinks. It will keep you hydrated, fresh and ready to hop aboard the birdie train. Try out Greater Than today and save $5 off their trial pack using code FRIEDEGG20 at checkout. Get your birdie juice here.
Shotgun Start: Koepka’s PGA to lose, Pretenders and Contenders, and PGA execs bail to NGLA
Andy has returned home to Chicago but not without relaying one final misadventure from his immersion in New York life. We get into the opening round from the PGA, leading with the obvious news of Bruce/Brooks Koepka rocketing to the top of another major leaderboard with a course record round. How far down the board do you go to find names still in it? Then we get to the anomaly of Danny Lee’s 64 as well as Rory’s day on the putting greens. A “contender or pretender” segment covers some of the, well, less publicized names on the first or second page of the leaderboard. In news, we hit on the PGA board’s big day out at National Golf Links of America in the middle of their biggest week of the year as well as the cheap ticket prices this week and if it means the NYC area has been oversaturated with majors. We also briefly discuss John Daly’s day rolling around a major on cart. Flashback Friday wraps up with a past PGA from the NYC area that left Tommy Tolles on the outside of the Ryder Cup roster. Listen on iTunes, Stitcher or Spotify
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